A's MLN: Barton Steals The Show

On a day that was supposed to be about the return of shortstop Bobby Crosby, it was Oakland A's prospect Daric Barton who stole the show with a big game to lead the Stockton Ports to victory. Crosby was a factor in the Ports win, as well, with a walk, a double and a run scored. In Omaha, rehabbing outfielder/ first baseman Nick Swisher was also a major contributor in the River Cats' win. Learn about all of Saturday's action in this edition of Oakland A's Minor League Notebook...

Barton's Perfect Day Seals Win For Stockton

Daric Barton came into the 2005 season with the weight of the world on his broad shoulders. As the centerpiece in a deal that involved the trade of ace Mark Mulder, Barton has -- fairly or unfairly -- been under a lot of scrutiny from A's fans who hope that he will someday soon lead the A's offensive attack. So far this season, Barton has displayed the patience and maturity at the plate that intrigued A's GM Billy Beane, having walked 28 times through Saturday night's game.

However, his power numbers and batting average have been below his career norms so far this season. A possible explanation for Barton's early season struggles could be that he was sidelined for almost half of spring training with an elbow injury and appendicitis and those injuries could have left him a little weaker to start the season. Whatever the reason for his struggles, Barton appears to be finally healthy and is starting to heat up at the plate. He homered twice last week and on Saturday night put together a fantastic display of power.

Hitting fifth in a Stockton line-up that included a rehabbing Bobby Crosby at the top of the order, Barton had a perfect day at the plate. He doubled twice, homered, drove in three runs, walked and was hit by a pitch to lead the Ports to a 4-3 victory over Bakersfield. Barton now has six doubles, five homers and 24 RBI on the season.

Crosby jump-started the Ports' offensive attack early by walking to lead-off the game and eventually scoring on Barton's ground-rule double with two-outs. The Ports tacked on another run in the second inning when Richie Robnett – fully recovered from a leg injury that sidelined him for almost three weeks – launched his third homer of the season. Stockton's final two runs came in the fifth inning on Barton's two-run homer.

Stockton starter Brad Ziegler made the four runs stand up with an outstanding outing. He worked 7.1 innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out five. He walked none. Elvis Avendano preserved the win by inducing a double-play in the top of the eighth inning when Bakersfield was threatening to tie the game. Jeff Muessig worked a perfect ninth to close out the win for Stockton.

Swisher, Sparks Lead Sacramento To Victory

The other rehabbing A's star, Nick Swisher, also had a productive evening at the plate. Batting lead-off and playing first base, Swisher went 3-4 with two doubles and an RBI to pace the River Cats offense. Former A's pitcher Steve Sparks threw an outstanding game for Sacramento and the River Cats beat the Omaha Royals, 5-1.

The knuckleballer Sparks worked seven shut-out innings, scattering six hits and striking out three. He didn't walk anyone. Sparks, who was signed as a minor league free agent at the beginning of May, was roughed up in his first outing for the River Cats but has otherwise been nearly unhittable this season for both Sacramento and the Portland Beavers. He could become a valuable option for the A's either in the bullpen or in the starting rotation should Oakland continue to struggle with injuries.

Sluggers Dan Johnson and Jack Cust each collected two hits. Johnson drove in three runs. Both Johnson and Cust have been forced to play in the outfield due to the lack of depth in the River Cats outfield. Sacramento has lost three outfielders in the last week – Matt Watson and Jermaine Clark to Oakland and Freddie Bynum to a hamstring injury. The River Cats added phenom Javier Herrera from Kane County to give them some depth. The young Herrera made his AAA debut on Saturday as a late-game replacement in center and was hit by a pitch in his only at-bat. He later scored. Reliever Ron Flores worked the final two innings and picked up his second save of the season. The 2004 PCL All-Star struck out four over those two frames.

The River Cats have been besieged by injuries of late and they may have sustained another one on Saturday, as catcher John Baker had to leave the game in the seventh with a neck injury. The extent of the injury is not yet known. Newly acquired catcher Tom Gregerio was hurt in his Sacramento debut on Thursday so the River Cats are thin at that position at the moment. Midland catcher Jeremy Brown could be a candidate to be recalled if Baker's injury is serious.

Ruiz, Wayment Power Kane County To Win

The Cougars middle infield muscled up on Saturday, combining for two homeruns and five RBI to lead Kane County to a 7-4 victory over Fort Wayne. Playing without offensive star Herrera, the Cougars still managed to collect 11 hits and seven runs. Ryan Ford allowed only two unearned runs in six innings to earn his fifth win of the season. He struck out seven. Closer Scot Drucker struck out the side in the 9th to notch his 11th save of the year.

The Cougars jumped out to an early lead when second baseman Ryan Ruiz hit a three-run homerun to stake Kane County to an advantage they would never relinquish. Ruiz, a UNLV alum, went 2-3 with that homerun, a double and two walks. Shortstop Kory Wayment also homered and both Kevin Melillo and Tommy Everidge drove in runs for the Cougars. Outfielder Nick Blasi stole his 10th base of the season.

Perry and Colamarino Homer But Midland Falls

Sluggers Jason Perry and Brant Colamarino each launched solo homeruns, but the rest of the Midland line-up was unable to plate any more runs, as the first-place Rockhounds fell 9-2 to Frisco. Newly promoted infielder Francis Gomez had a double and a triple, but was stranded on the bases both times, as the Rockhounds left six runners on base in total.

Gomez is playing for his third team in less than two weeks. He began the season in Stockton and was promoted to AAA-Sacramento when the River Cats needed some depth in the infield. He was sent back to Stockton earlier this week, but found himself packing his bags again on Friday night, as he was summoned to Midland. Gomez played the majority of last season in Midland.

Starter Matt Lynch pitched well through 6.1 innings, allowing only two earned runs. However, the normally stalwart Evan Fahrner was roughed up for six runs in only one inning of work, opening up the Frisco lead to an insurmountable seven runs.

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